Brussels office market trembling as space requirements change

Spotted in @lecho

Due to the generalization of remote working, more and more large companies are reducing the size of their headquarters. According to a study by L’Echo, major employers are thus set to free up 250,000 m² of office space in Brussels. ENGIE Electrabel is going to rent out half of the 60,000 m² towers complex it occupies in the North district. The giant KBC Bank complex constructed on the Avenue du Port along the Canal in the 1990’s comprises several large buildings. In 2016, after the sale of the building located at number 12 to developer Triple Living, the company is now studying the possibility of selling the neighboring building, located at number 6. KBC would therefore only occupy the main building located at number 2 of the Avenue du Port, which totals almost 29,000 square meters, or half of the complex.

The example of Belfius illustrates the enormous impact that the development of remote working can have. Last year, the bank offered nearly 3,000 employees at their head office in the Rogier Tower the possibility of opting for ‘home based’ status, which provides that employees work from home for at least 100 days a year and come to the head office at least 50 days a year. No less than 77% of the employees concerned have opted for this status, which means that three quarters of the staff will only come to the headquarters 50 days a year, or approximately once a week!

According to ‘The Office Observatory’ published by the agency, the office park of the Brussels-Capital Region has fluctuated for 5 years at around 12.7 million m². According to data from the JLL agency, 8.34% of the office park – or more than 1 million square meters – was vacant last year. A significant part of empty office buildings are converted into apartments. According to JLL figures, no less than 1.02 million square meters of offices in Brussels have been transformed into housing over the past ten years.

In this trembling office market, the popularity of new Grade A buildings with high energetic performance and care for occupants’ well-being is increasing. Adel Yahia, Managing Director of Immobel Belgium stated in L'Echo:“All multinationals looking for offices require new and sustainable buildings. They cannot stay in their old offices because they no longer meet ESG standards”. This is the type of choice made by Total Energies which will move into the #MultiTower because its French mother company requires its Belgian headquarters to be carbon neutral.According to JLL, the strong demand for ‘green’ buildings is enabling office rents in Brussels to maintain their levels. Rents have been oscillating for years at an average of around € 160/m²/year. Experts expect the rents for this type of office space now to rise due to the substantial increase in construction prices and growing demand.

Read more in the L’Echo REPORT [ La réduction des bureaux des grandes entreprises secoue le marché bruxellois ]